019. life, anxiety, and me

I’ll let you in on some personal information: last year I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, mild depression, and some obsessive compulsive behaviors. Since then, I’ve been working with a therapist to deal with my reactions and anxiety issues because they were severely impacting my life – and while I wouldn’t categorize them as ‘severe’ anymore, they are still there, and some days, like today, they continue to make things difficult for me.

The biggest source of anxiety for me right now is my husband’s green card paperwork. The immigration lawyer quoted us $5K, which we clearly couldn’t afford, so I knew I had to do all of the paperwork myself. We are through the first stage and into the second one, but this means I’m once again faced with putting together all the documentation and making sure all 12 pages of each form are filled out perfectly, or else we risk being rejected (for forgetting to check a box!). Knowing that if I screw up these papers or this document packet, I risk screwing up our entire future, my anxiety has once again reached peak levels.

When my anxiety attacks hit, I can’t breathe. My chest is tight and I can’t find my breath, I’m usually shaky, and I tend to start sobbing uncontrollably. Just printing out the necessary forms and beginning to gather what we need sent me spiraling today after work – and I knew it was coming. The paperwork is the biggest trigger for me right now, and the pressure is overwhelming, plus, every time the administration starts talking about shutting down immigration, it throws me into another anxiety fit. I know I have to tackle these things on my own and take control, but being here in Japan isn’t helping, as this country is another thing that tends to aggravate my anxiety on even the better days.

It’s a lot when you are desperately hoping for a job that will hire you from abroad and finishing out a current contract in a job that has rapidly become almost unbearable in a country that has also become almost unbearable. I find that I’m not doing so well many days right now because of all the pressure. Plus, the reality in Japan is that my husband is rarely home at night, which means I’m alone for most of my anxiety issues – not the best way for me, as I desperately need other people around to keep my mood up.

If anyone else struggles with anxiety or depression, I hope you are doing well, and please know that you are worth it and that I believe in your ability to tackle whatever demons you face. It’s hard work when a mental illness prevents you from doing the things you know you need to do, but all I can do is keep moving forward. I hope that you all can do the same.

The Life Siphon book 2 – cover and title reveal!

Well, it’s not yet the 1st (at least on my side of the world as we near evening on the 31st), but I’m so excited that I decided to post half a day early! It’s time for The Life Siphon book 2 title and cover reveal!

I cannot possibly worship Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio any more, because she did an absolutely FANTASTIC job with this and I’m completely in love! So now book 2 – The Mage Heir – has a cover, a title, and… a release date! Available on March 15, 2018!

Once it comes back from my editor, ARCs should be heading out to anyone on the ARC team, and there’s still time to get your name included. Be sure to sign up on my website welcome page here if you want to be one of the readers who gets a first look copy for review! And a huge thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read The Life Siphon, especially those who have written up reviews; taking a chance on an indie author when there are so many other books out there is something I am forever grateful for.

Writing this duology has been an amazing journey for me – thank you so much for being a part of it!


018. between two worlds

I’ve probably talked about Japan enough in my blogs that most people are aware that’s where I currently live, but right now it’s a strange sort of existence. My husband and I are heading to the States for good in the spring, so we are in the process of getting his American visa/green card – what a nightmare that is! – and right now it feels like we are just waiting for the exhale when we can go. I can’t say I’m leaving Japan on very good terms after my six years here, because that would be a lie, but it wasn’t always like this. I honestly loved Japan for the first two years.

When reading an article about culture shock, I found one that described the end stage as either assimilation or…. not assimilation, and I think that’s true. Either you adapt and fall into the culture, or you realize that you never will, and I’m the latter. The things that once amused me about living here as a visible minority no longer do. Things like 12+ rejections for available apartment rentals because I’m not Japanese, or people being constantly surprised when I can use enough Japanese to say “thank you” or “I’m sorry.” After awhile, I’m just tired, and things at work unraveled in the past two years so that I’m also not even leaving my job of five years on good terms.

But I have to finish my contract, which ends in March, and we want to stay for one last cherry blossom season. It’s an odd position to be in when you know you’ll be leaving soon and you’re excited for it, but at the same time, it’s a huge transition for us and it’s going to be a much bigger one for my husband, who has never lived in America before. It just feels like I’ve sucked in a breath that now I have to hold for the next three months.

I’ll miss the friends I’ve made here, the people who understood me on an incredibly deep level immediately – there’s something that pulled all of us here, and it binds us. You build friendships quickly as an expat. I’ve made friends here that I will cherish and keep for the rest of my life, and I will forever be glad that Japan gave me that experience. I love my students, and I’m proud to have gotten to have an impact on their lives. And I can never totally hate Japan, since Japan gave me my husband, who was nothing I ever, ever could have predicted in a future partner but is everything I honestly need.

I moved here alone when I was 27 with two suitcases, a job that might not even have existed, not enough money to survive two months in my bank account, and no apartment. Before I left, my mother told me: “You have a kind of courage that I will never know.” She might have been right, but whatever courage I had, it’s lost now. I can’t imagine doing something like that again. Maybe because I know how hard it is now. Maybe because I’m just getting old and want stability. I want a place that we can put down roots and start a family in.

In the meantime, I’m writing a lot, and it’s helping me get through this anxiety-filled lull. Hopefully the words will continue once we’re back in America again. πŸ™‚

017. a huge thank you!

I wanted to use this blog post to thank all the new readers I’ve had this past week, mostly thanks to the Hidden Gems ARC program. As an indie author, reaching new readers is one of the hardest things to do, and each time someone reads my work and leaves their thoughts, I am filled with an incredible gratitude. So I wanted to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who has done this recently – it means the world to me!

Each time I see new feedback, I open up The Life Siphon book 2 and get a few more pages revised in draft two. It’s incredible for my motivation. For any readers who commented that they couldn’t wait until the second book, I do have ARC slots available for those interested, and all you have to do is send me an email with your name and information to get on the list. You’ll get the book before anyone else will!

So thank you, thank you, to each and every person who has read my work this week – whether it be The Life Siphon or an ARC of Ibuki – and please know that I appreciate SO MUCH the fact that you took a chance on an unknown book. The world of self- and indie-publishing has created so much opportunity for writers, but it also makes it that much harder to get noticed in the amount of books available each day. Time is precious and limited, so thank you very much to those who have decided to use their time curled up with my work. ζœ¬ε½“γ«γ‚γ‚ŠγŒγ¨γ†γ”γ–γ„γΎγ—γŸ!

016. winter chill

I’m no stranger to winter – I grew up in midwestern America, where the temperature could drop down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite this, the mild winter in Japan is much worse! It’s a combination of factors: lack of insulation, lack of central heat, and being outside walking in the cold much more often. As a result of the poorly warmed apartments, I develop chilblains every winter on my fingers and toes.

Chilblains are low-level frostbite resulting in exposure to cold (but not freezing) temperatures; basically, it’s an abnormal reaction to the cold. I never had them in America, but every year like clockwork I get them in Japan. My fingers swell and blister, and my toes swell and itch, and sometimes, like now, it’s so bad I can’t fit my feet into half my work shoes. It’s also extraordinarily uncomfortable to try walking and working with hard, swollen, painful red patches over your extremities.

Insulation doesn’t exist in walls in Tokyo. And without central heat, you are forced to resort to your wall A/C unit for all heating and cooling needs – and if you only have one in your living room, your bedroom is freezing. These units are turned off during the day when you’re gone (or else your bill will be around $500) and when you return home in the evening, often times your apartment is colder than the winter outside! This kind of living is what triggers my chilblains, and there’s really no way around it. Both my running and my writing have slowed way down as a result of this discomfort.

I think I must conveniently forget this issue every year once winter is over, because it’s a surprise each time it happens again. My husband has been making a DIY ζΉ―γŸγ‚“γ½ (basically a hot water bottle) out of his steel water bottle, and we’re keeping it at our feet in the bed at night. We have a small floor heater for the bedroom, but it fails to regulate temperature like the wall unit does, so two hours of power and the room is a sauna. However, without insulation, you lose all the heat an hour after you turn the heater off! It’s a no-win situation.

This is our last winter in Japan before we leave for good, so at least the end is in sight. I’ll be glad to be back in a place that builds houses to keep the heat (and cool) inside, rather than let it all out! And my poor frostbitten fingers and toes will be glad, too.

015. running and writing

In the past month, I’ve come to the conclusion that running and writing are cut from the same cloth and very similar to each other. Confused? I can see why – after all, these are two hobbies that appear pretty far apart in terms of just about everything. But I swear, there is way more alike about them than first meets the eye.

In the past month, I geared up and hit the pavement to pull myself into consistent 10k running. I also geared up and hit the figurative pavement to write NaNoWriMo. I’m going to lose NaNo fairly spectacularly, as I usually do, but still, between the two I began to notice a lot of similarities.

(1) Motivation for both can be hard to find.

Some days, you really don’t want to run. And other days, you really just don’t want to write! Getting out the door or onto the Gdoc can be the hardest part of either hobby. Sometimes you have to bribe yourself to get going. And then-

(2) Once you get started, reflexes take over.

Sometimes it takes a kilometer and sometimes five; sometimes it takes 100 words and sometimes 500. But eventually, with both running and writing, you hit your stride and it becomes easier. Muscle memory takes over and you remember why you like doing it. Whatever was blocking you fades away and the km and words start to flow.

(3) It’s all small goals leading to the finish line.

Maybe your finish line is a literal one, and maybe a figurative one, but both of the hobbies have an end goal. Whether it’s running a marathon or finishing your novel, there’s something you work for, day by day and bit by bit, to achieve. As you work, you set small goals: 30km this week or 1500 words a day. Sometimes you’ll hit the goal and sometimes you won’t, but there’s always a new day waiting for you to try again.

(4) Doing them with others makes the work easier.

There’s a reason that NaNo is a big community website and event. There’s a reason they organize meet-ups and encourage people to get involved in the forums. And there’s a huge reason that marathon runners find pace-equivalent race prep teams on weekends. Doing work with others ups your own motivation and connects you with people who understand your goals on a fundamental level.

(5) After you finish for the day, you feel great.

No matter if it was a daily run or a daily word count, meeting your goal for the day makes you feel like you can take on the world. It’s a great feeling that can carry over into the rest of your day! And of course –

(6) People outside your hobby usually don’t understand what you are talking about.

Want to dish about the breakthrough you made in your antagonist’s motivations? Or about how you just PRed your best time by 20 seconds? Yeah, often times the people around you don’t have any clue what you are talking about or why you would ever want to talk about it. That’s why it’s helpful to get some friends who share your hobbies.

014. nanowrimo 2017

It’s that time again! Time for frantic writing, scrambled outlines, and general panic as NaNoWriMo arrives (with something of a bang over here, as we are set to have a typhoon hit tonight). In about a week, it will be November, and that means it’s time to write 50,000 words in one month! Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Because I am!

My NaNo project has changed already – at the beginning of October, I thought for sure I knew what I was doing and had my outline all finished and ready to go! Turns out, my motivation for the project disappeared entirely, but never fear! I am resurrecting (in a way) a very old novel idea and transforming it into something new, and that is my new NaNo 2017 novel project.

Now, to start this, I need to finish The Life Siphon book 2 first draft, which I am almost there with. One more chapter plus the epilogue should finish out Tatsu’s story, and I’ve got nine days to get that done – hopefully no problem! Then, after November, I can go back to the draft with fresh eyes and get the first round of revisions made. (I’m looking at a late spring, early summer release date if all goes well.) With that coming out mid-year, and my novella from NSP due out in mid-February, and chapters of my NaNo project going to my editor in December, it’s possible that I’ll have three things in the pipeline in 2018! That’s incredibly exciting (and cool)!

Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? Best of luck reaching 50k to everyone participating! And see you in November – when the pain begins. πŸ™‚

013. autumn glory

Autumn is absolutely my favorite time of the year. I’m at my peak in autumn, with the most energy and motivation (which makes it a great time to finish WIPs and hold NaNoWriMo). I always used to love the turning of colors back in the states, but none of that, at least not in the midwest where I come from, can compare to the glory that is autumn colors – or 紅葉 ‘koyo’ – in Japan. (Japanese like to tell foreigners and newcomers, “Japan has four seasons!” like Japan is the only country on the planet that goes through those seasons on a yearly basis.)

Koyo here doesn’t start until much later than I’m used to – I come from midwest America, where several years growing up saw snow during Halloween trick-or-treating. Japan is a milder climate, so the colors here in Tokyo don’t start turning until mid-November, and usually don’t reach anything resembling peak until the end of the month, which means they stay until the first few weeks in December! This leads up nicely into the winter holidays, so it’s a great change from seeing blizzards before Thanksgiving. If you are really craving those autumn colors as a Tokyoite, you can follow them down the country by traveling to the north and west mountain regions, which see koyo come as early as the beginning of October.

I do a lot of traveling in the fall – most of my ‘exploring Japan’ trips happened during the fall, and when I got married, I insisted that the wedding be in the fall, too. It’s my favorite time of the year! If you ever want to visit Japan, visit in mid-November, as it’s the only truly wonderful time to be here.

Tokyo is a concrete jungle, but it’s also home to some really nice koyo viewing parks. You can start up early by doing some easy day hikes from the metropolitan area and hit the colors in early November, and then by the end of the month, all you have to do is find your favorite local park and settle on in! I tend to take a lot of photographs during these months, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorites so everyone can see the beautiful sights that I’m talking about.

(From the summit of Mt. Takao, Nov. 2012)

(Hiking up Mt. Mitsutoge, Dec. 2013)

(Oirase Stream in Aomori prefecture, Oct. 2014)

(Hiking Mt. Mizugaki in Yamanashi prefecture, Oct. 2015)

012. run for your life

Today I thought I’d talk about a hobby near and dear to my heart: running! I’ll admit right away that I am far from the best runner. In fact, in ten years of running, it’s embarrassing how little I’ve actually accomplished by way of progress and speed. But running seems to be the only exercise that I consistently stick with, and no matter what happens, I always find myself going back to it.

It’s finally turning into fall here in Tokyo, so it’s running weather again! Now that it’s not sticky hot with 90% humidity, as summers here are well through September, I can go outside and run without feeling like my clothes are sticking to my skin. I’ve struck up something of an unofficial training plan to try and finally get some real progress under my belt, and so far, it’s been working. Last week I ran 4 times for 25 total kilometers, and today I ran for the second time this week and one of my better 5k times (32:30).

I always used to think that running was a solitary activity, and even a few runs with one of my best friends when I was in grad school didn’t really change that. But after I got to Japan, there were a few months in my second year here where I was running every Friday with my bestie, and afterwards we would order pizza and watch a movie (so we could eat without guilt!). Now, I run with my husband, and it’s some of the best runs that I have – it feels fun and easy, and we talk while we are running and don’t have much by way of a destination or goal. We both agree that we enjoy our pair runs so much we’re going to schedule them in on the few days that our evening schedules match up.

Running is one of the few activities that you can do without any equipment other than some good shoes and your motivation. My favorite shoes are my ASICS – once I switched, I never looked back. I’m using the Gel-Cumulus series right now, and I really love them! (I’m a heel-stepping over-pronator, and they help with all that.) You can run anywhere and almost anytime, and in a land where gym memberships run anywhere from $80-120 a month, it’s nice to be able to choose the free option around my neighborhood instead.

And running has so many benefits – building muscle, training your heart, and helping reduce stress! As someone who suffers from some fairly bad anxiety, I can definitely see the difference in my stress levels when I’m running regularly. I sleep better, too, with more energy during the day. The only real drawback is that I’m so hungry all the time!

Running might not be for everyone, and I’ve already suffered some injuries since it’s a high-impact exercise on knees and other joints, but I’m glad there are others who love running as much as I do. Is anyone else a runner? Why do you do it?

011. editors & editing

As I’m currently going through my first round of edits with my editor from NineStar Press, who will be publishing my F/F fantasy romance novella in February, I thought I would center this blog post around editing and editors.

I’ve really been enjoying this experience so far, even though it takes quite a long time to get through these changes and I’m working on a deadline while still holding down my full-time job, my social life, and the household chores that fall on my shoulders. My editor is wonderful at pointing out the things I tend to do way too much – word repetition, semi-colon use, and shifting things to passive voice when they should be active. I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to work through multiple drafts like this, because already, the things she has pointed out are things I will now apply to my other works as I’m creating second and third drafts.

With my self-published novel, I hired a freelance editor to do line-edits on my “mostly ready” draft near the end of the process, and I use beta readers to do the majority of the story development edits before I ever think about giving the work to an editor. With NSP, my editor is filling both roles, so it’s a different experience working through things with her. And the suggestions for changes are usually at my discretion, though I can’t say that I reject very many of them – she definitely knows best!

As for the overall plot and structure, my novella hasn’t needed much since I went through myself on multiple rounds and adjusted the pacing that I thought it needed. But when The Life Siphon went through its second draft, I ended up redoing, removing, and altering entire chapters at a time. There was a huge shift between the first and second drafts, and all of the changes were for the better (even if, at the time, taking out whole chapters caused physical pain!). I can’t stress enough how important my beta readers are, and how much their input has shaped the course of both The Life Siphon and the upcoming second book.

Editing might be a thankless job, so I hope I can convey my gratitude to my editor once this novella is ready to publish. It’s already been a great learning experience!